Pence’s Plane Landed Midway Down Runway in October Mishap

  • U.S. NTSB releases investigative update on New York accident
  • Charter plane skidded off end of LaGuardia runway in rain

The plane that was carrying Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence sits on the runway at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Oct. 27, 2016.

Photographer: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Pilots of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s charter flight landed almost halfway down the runway at LaGuardia Airport before skidding off the end, according to a preliminary report on the October incident.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said the charter flight landed about 3,000 feet (914 meters) down the 7,001-foot runway. Pilots on other planes that had landed previously reported that they had no problems with braking, the NTSB said in the update released Tuesday.

The agency didn’t release any conclusions about the cause of the mishap.

The Boeing Co. 737-700 carrying Pence skidded off the end of a runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport Oct. 27 after landing hard in the rain. No injuries were reported among the 11 crewmembers and 37 passengers on the flight operated by Eastern Air Lines Group Inc.

The plane, built in 1998, came to rest near the Grand Central Parkway on the southwestern side of the airport after rolling into a bed of crushable concrete designed to halt runaway aircraft.

“When we landed, it was obvious I think to everybody on the plane that the pilots were hitting the brakes very hard,” Pence said the next day on MSNBC. “It was about 10 seconds of uncertainty, but we were all fine.”

Touchdown Point

The Flight Safety Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit supporting aviation accident reduction, and other safety groups advise pilots to touchdown within about 2,300 feet of the start of a runway the length of the one at LaGuardia on which the accident occurred. Landing too far down a runway was one of the key factors leading to accidents in which planes skidded off runways, according to a Boeing analysis cited by the foundation.

The pilots, who were not named in the report, told NTSB investigators that their approach was “stable,” meaning that the plane was traveling at an acceptable speed and descending normally. They saw the runway at an altitude about 700 feet above the ground, according to the safety board.

While the plane should have been able to stop routinely on the 7,001-foot (2,134-meter) runway -- and other aircraft didn’t have problems shortly before the accident -- the NTSB has already identified several factors that may have contributed to the overrun.

There was a slight tail wind when the plane landed, according to the NTSB. The winds were within permissible levels at the time. However, that meant the aircraft was traveling faster over the ground than if it was landing into the wind, which would make it somewhat harder to slow down.

‘Spoilers’ Not Functioning

Devices known as spoilers, panels atop the wings that automatically flip up to help with braking once wheels touch the runway, weren’t functioning that day, according to the NTSB. The pilots had to activate them manually, which meant they were deployed a few seconds later than normal, according to the NTSB.

At the same time, the runway was wet, which reduces the effectiveness of the brakes.

Eastern Air Lines was approved for operations by U.S. regulators in 2015 after acquiring the name of the former U.S. carrier in 2011, according to its website.

In a separate accident, a 44-year-old FedEx Corp. plane that burst into flames Oct. 28 after landing at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, had an apparent routine touchdown and rolled for about 12 seconds on the runway before one of its landing gear collapsed, the NTSB said.

The Boeing MD-10 cargo jet tipped onto its left engine and wing, spilling fuel and catching fire. Both pilots escaped from the plane through a cockpit window and weren’t injured, according to the agency.

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